Predictions

Spotswood (5-0) at Rockbridge

County (4-1)

WHEN: 7 p.m. on Friday

WHERE: Wildcat Stadium in

Lexington

LAST YEAR: The Wildcats suffered a 35-7 loss at Spotswood, and the Blazers would go on to win the Valley District title before falling to Liberty (Bedford) 40-38 in the Region 3C quarterfinals. RC got within 10 yards of the end zone twice in the first quarter and failed to convert both times, and Spotswood took a 14-0 halfitme lead. RC quarterback Ty Ruley completed a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jailik Lynch in the third quarter, but the Blazers put the game away with three TDs in the fourth quarter. Spotswood’s Ethan Barnhart rushed for 147 yards and a TD, and teammate Brennan Brown ran for 107 yards and two TDs.

THE SCOOP: As they prepare for the Valley District opener, both the Wildcats and Blazers are coming off bye weeks. Brown has graduated, but the Blazers still have Barnhart and quarterback Ryan High, who helped their team go 9-2 last year. Other than their season-opening 20-12 win at Eastern Rockingham, the Blazers have won all of their games by 30 points or more.

Spotswood is a physically strong team, but the Wildcats have gotten stronger this year and have shown it in dominating most of their opponents. With the help of the offensive line, the Wildcats have had great success in their running game, and sophomore quarterback Miller Jay has steadily improved.

THE NEWS-GAZETTE’S PICK: The Wildcats were hoping to face the Blazers in the playoffs last season after their season ended with a 42-35 loss in the regional quarterfinals two years ago, and now they will get their chance. The Wildcats dealt Christiansburg its first loss on Sept. 20 in Lexington, and they’ll battle for a 31-29 win to also knock Spotswood from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Parry McCluer (0-5) at Craig County (2-3)

WHEN: 7 p.m. on Friday

WHERE: Craig County High School in New Castle

LAST YEAR: The Blues cruised to a 42-15 homecoming win over Craig County in their Pioneer District opener, extending their winning streak against the Rockets to eight games. PM scored on all three of its possessions in the first quarter, and the Blues built up a 42-0 lead before the Rockets scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Marcellius Dawson, who graduated from PM in the spring, scored PM’s first five TDs and led all players with 198 rushing yards. Dawson’s classmate, Zach Clay-tor, made two TD passes, one to Dawson and one to Bech Garrett.

THE SCOOP: The Blues have had a challenging nondistrict schedule, gradually improving and finally finding their way into the end zone in last Friday’s 52-6 loss at Roanoke Catholic. In the Pioneer District opener, they go up against a team that they have historically defeated. However, the Rockets have won a couple of games this season, with a 2-0 win in their opener at Bland County and a 30-16 victory at Montcalm (W.Va.) on Sept. 20.

While the Blues lost all but six of their starters from last year’s team, the Rockets return several leaders, including quarterback Dakota Henderson and running back Kyle Sloss, who each ran for a TD for Craig in last year’s loss to PM PM. The Blues’ defense will aim to limit those two players and their teammates.

THE NEWS-GAZETTE’S PICK: Now that the Blues have scored their first points of the season, look for them to build on that. Both teams will be eager to start their district slate with a win, but the Blues will find success with their running game and will earn a 22-15 victory, rewarding their fans for their patience and dedication.

The News-Gazette

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